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The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories [MultiFormat]
eBook by Joan Aiken & Garth Nix

eBook Category: Young Adult
eBook Description: Because of a wish made by their mother before they were born, the two Armitage children, Mark and Harriet, lead lives full of magic and strangeness. Every Monday (and sometimes on a Tuesday) "interesting" things happen to the Armitage family: the Board of Incantation tries to take over their house to use as a school for young wizards; the purchase of a golden apple at a bargain price brings a visit from the Furies; Harriet climbs an apple tree and finds herself in the Land of Heroes. In the title story, when Mark assembles a diorama from cutouts on a cereal box, he enters into a beautiful palace garden where an ancient and tragic mistake must be undone. Over the course of these stories, Mark and Harriet must learn to gracefully manage a menagerie of dragons, unicorns, witches, ghosts and goblins. The uncommon lives of the Armitage family will thrill and delight readers young and old. The Serial Garden is the first complete collection of Joan Aiken's twenty-four beloved Armitage family stories--including four published here for the first time. The collection also includes Joan Aiken's "Prelude" to the series from Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home, as well as introductions from Joan Aiken's daughter, Lizza Aiken, and best-selling author Garth Nix.

eBook Publisher: Small Beer Press/Big Mouth House, Published: 2008, 2008
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2009


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Praise for Joan Aiken's stories:

"Joan Aiken's invention seemed inexhaustible, her high spirits a blessing, her sheer storytelling zest a phenomenon. She was a literary treasure, and her books will continue to delight for many years to come."--Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass)

"A new Armitage family story is worth more than rubies to me, or a gold piece combed from a unicorn's tail."--Garth Nix (Sabriel)

"These are admirable stories for any age because they are dug from a delightful mind. Many will drop into their readers lives like those enriching stones which break the surfaces of still pools and leave rings long after their splash."--Times Literary Supplement

"Whether scary, satiric, or poetic, Aiken's tales have strong settings, memorable characters, insight, and humor."--School Library Journal

"A writer of wild humor and unrestrained imagination."--Oxford Companion to Children's Literature

"With its fine-tuned combination of folklore and fun.... a good source of imaginative tales to read alone or aloud."--Booklist

"The best kind of writer, strange and funny and surprising."--Kelly Link (Pretty Monsters)

"Joan Aiken's magic stories have the right mixture ... distinguished and sometimes beautiful writing and always in a frame-work of logic."--Naomi Mitchison, New Statesman

"This year can boast one genuine small masterpiece.... The Wolves of Willoughby Chase ... almost a copybook lesson in those virtues that a classic children's book must possess."--Time Magazine


Joan Aiken (1924-2004) began writing the Armitage Family stories when she was still in her teens and sold the first story, "Yes, but Today Is Tuesday," to the BBC Children's Hour programme in 1944. This and another five stories about the Armitage children, Mark and Harriet, and their encounters with everyday magic, were included in her first published collection, All You've Ever Wanted, in 1953. Over the years Joan continued to add to their adventures, and the stories appeared in six further collections of fantastic tales during the next four decades. For the American collection Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home in 1968, Joan added a prelude introducing the Armitage parents on their honeymoon, and ensuring, by means of a wishing ring, that despite living "happily ever after" the family would never, never be bored. Before she died in 2004 she had completed four new Armitage stories, and had just sent them to her typist, together with all those from previous collections, with a letter saying that she hoped to try and have all of them gathered together and published in one volume. Here it is at last!

Joan was the daughter of writer Conrad Aiken, who was divorced from her mother, Jessie McDonald, when Joan was five. When Jessie married his friend, the writer Martin Armstrong, in 1929, the family moved from Joan's birthplace in the town of Rye to a tiny cottage in a village on the other side of Sussex. Armstrong was nearly fifty and had no children until Joan's half brother David was born in 1931, and she says: "I was rather nervous of him and he, probably rightly, found most of my remarks silly." Nevertheless he was "immensely entertaining, both witty and erudite," and life at the cottage was graceful in spite of the family's poverty, as Armstrong depended for their living on what he wrote. In those days there was no running water, it was drawn from a well, and no electricity, but oil lamps and fires to prepare daily. Joan always said that these formative years were lonely but happy; her friends were books.

Her brother John and sister Jane, twelve and seven years older, were sent away to school, but Jessie, who took a B.A. at McGill in her native Canada, and a Master's at Radcliffe in 1912, before marrying Conrad, was well able to teach Joan at home, and was herself a great reader. Armstrong was also an enormous influence on Joan's reading--his house was full of books--and on her writing, both by example and in his comments on her early work. All through the 1920s and 1930s Armstrong was producing novels, biographies, and poems, but perhaps his greatest gift was for short stories, and it is for his fantastic, often ghostly, and wildly imaginative stories that he will probably be best remembered. In the late 1930s the BBC invited him to write for their Children's Hour programmes, and he produced a series of stories called "Said the Cat to the Dog" about a middle-class English family and their rather extraordinary talking pets, which became an enormous success.

Joan was about sixteen and, as she says, "in a snobbish sort of teenage rebellious mood, and it seemed to me that they were terribly silly." In fact they probably were intentionally so, but this only reflects the difference between Joan's attitude to writing for children, and what her stepfather considered would be suitable (and indeed moral) fare for the young. "Silly" had been the most withering criticism he had levelled at her own early work, and this had clearly rankled.

"Just for fun I thought I would write a kind of skit on them, so I wrote a story, called 'Yes, but Today Is Tuesday,' calling my family Armitage instead of Armstrong, in which a lot of totally unexpected and horrendous things happened, sent it to the BBC, and to my amazement they took it!"


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